“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
” We treasure the Serenity Prayer because it brings a new light to us that can dissipate our oldtime and nearly fatal habit of fooling ourselves.
In the radiance of this prayer we see that defeat, rightly accepted, need not be a disaster. We now know that we do not have to run away, nor ought we again try to overcome adversity by still another bulldozing power drive that can only push up obstacles before us faster than they can be taken down.”
I think that Bill W., sure got it right on this one. He tells us that defeat, rightly accepted, need not be a disaster. Well, initially when I felt totally defeated, I did not accept it. How could I? My life was falling apart and the pain so great that I did want to run away. Hide. Disappear. Anything but face what I knew I had to face. But eventually when I did face up to my defeat, my defeat didn’t turn out to be a disaster. Bill got it right. With time, work,and the 12 step fellowship my life started to straighten out. Now, these many years later, I see how God made it possible to use my own defeat to help others overcome theirs. In other words, my Higher Power gave me the necessary courage to change the things I could. One day at a time.
I think that most of us have read or heard through the media about suicides among our nation’s military. Even though there are less suicides recorded this year among members of the Armed Forces, our National Guard units have experienced a rise in suicides among its members this past year. One suicide among us is one too many!
So what is going on? From my perspective as a civilian who works with persons every day who are depressed, I think that because of the nature of their roles as men and women committed to putting their lives on the line, especially combat, this fact in itself is enough to present a person with stress and the many resultant symptoms of depression. I do know that stressful life events, and the thinking about them, can grind us down psychologically, physically and psychically.
Depression must be taken seriously! Telling a person depressed to ” snap out of it.” is not helpful at all. This basically invalidates my own feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. I can’t just turn my depression on or off like a faucet.
I just hope that those with the capacity to help our soldiers who are depressed can help all our soldiers to be better prepared by making available support groups designed specifically for men and women depressed. As one top military put it, he thinks that just by making available someone to talk to–and telling them that it is “ok, to admit feeling helpless about circumstances in one’s life and that you are spiraling down into an abyss and can’t climb out.” Most person depressed feel especially out of control, I also think that men in our culture, because of needing to be strong and brave, find it most difficult to share these deep emotions of feeling helpless plus dealing with something that can’t just be willed away. Shame and guilt are real obstacles to getting help. Depression not only paralyzes our wills but makes moving out of our isolating behavior just that much more difficult.
It would be my recommendation that the military continue its efforts in establishing support groups which deal specifically with issues of depression and suicidal thinking and behavior. Would the military consider using material modeled after the 12 steps off AA and which has been established as a remedy, since 1985, not only for the military but for all who are looking for support. . Depression is a global problem. We feel that Depressed Anonymous is such a therapeutic approach and one which our military deserve. And as a nation we need to “pass muster” and give our troops the best that we have to give.
1) Educates and informs us about our experience of depression. 2) Nurtures us so that we can begin to share and to trust our unpleasant feelings with others. 3) Accepts us and does not make judgements about our experiences with depression. In other words, we don’t hear “snap out of it” in the group. 4) Teaches coping skills by our frequent meetings and group membership interaction. It provides us with a “toolbox” of new skills we can utilize in our overcoming of sadness. 5) Empowers us to believe that there is truly a way out of our depression. One of the major benefits of our group is you can hear how other persons depressed have made it out of depression. (Read the Personal Stories in Depressed Anonymous). It is clear that the program works best for those who keep coming back to meetings.
There are multiple benefits that come to those of us who are committed to being active participants in our fellowship of Depressed Anonymous. I should know, I am one of the active participants.
In order for us to escape depression we need to begin to be aware of the process of how people change. That process for change is of the nature of a spiral instead of a straight line. In other words, now that we are willing to risk feeling differently we have been gearing up to improve our situation. In other words we are making a very important decision right now about our lives.
1. AWARENESS STAGE: We become conscious that we can’t go on feeling the way that we do. Something has to give.
2. MOTIVATING STAGE: I am going to prepare myself for needed change in my thinking, acting and feeling.
3. DOING STAGE: I am going to take charge and be responsible for positive changes that have to be made by me if I am to feel differently.
4. MAINTAINING STAGE: I will continue to seek out and sustain my recovery with people, concepts and my personal working of the 12 step program for recovery.
Now apply these four stages which serve as antidotes to our character defects and which cause us to stay imprisoned in our prison of depression…The first is the character defect of BLAMING.
(1) AWARE. Now that I have admitted that I am powerless over my depression and that it serves no purpose to blame myself for my depression an d bashing myself with daily reminders how bad and unacceptable I am. And now I am: (1) AWARE of my need to discover what there is about myself that I do find acceptable, good and wholesome.
(2) I am MOTIVATING myself now that I am aware how I have depressed myself by the faulty beliefs that I have held about myself over the past years. I now know that part of the way I feel is due to the way I automatically talk to myself throughout the day. Without ever being conscious of it I now realize that my feelings about myself are very negative and emotion laden.
(3) DOING. I intend today to replace all negative statements that I make in my head and replace them with positive statements –positive affirmations. I am going to alert myself –like a red flag waving –every time I call myself stupid or put myself down mentally. I will use affirmations such as “I will build a new life.” “I am strong.” “I have courage to go through this experience.” “I no longer blame myself or others for my sadness.” “I do not have to wait for someone to make me feel differently.” “I can do it myself.”
(4) MAINTAINING. I am very hopeful that I can feel differently just today, for this 24 hour period. I am going to tolerate my imperfectness while at the same time refusing to feel sorry for myself. I am going to make myself accountable for how I feel –not blame it on another, the weather, parents or whatever.
SOURCE: The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (Pgs. 41-43)- Depressed Anonymous Publications – Louisville
Continued tomorrow: BEING A VICTIM
Today, I celebrate a personal victory. Today, on Veterans Day (USA) 29 years ago I overcame my addiction to cigarettes. I was smoking two packs everyday. Then on the night of the 11th of November, 1985, I had a frightening dream. I dreamt that if I was to continue smoking it would not be long till I developed tongue cancer. Was the message from a Higher Power? Was it my fear come to fruition in that relaxed frame of mind which sounded a warning? Whatever it was and whoever it came from I really didn’t care–all I know is that day I needed to make a decision to quit smoking. By 7pm that evening the decision was made. And from that day forward my life went on without a smoke. I am grateful for the dream that paradoxically, woke me up. Was the dream a manifestation of the “Power greater than myself” that spoke to me in my sleep. How could a dream do what I could not do for myself? Believe me, I tried for years to quit–without any lasting results. I think what occurred that night in my dream enabled me to have a “spiritual awakening“, where my Higher Power did something for me that I was not able to do. Smoking two packs of cigarettes a day is definitely insane. God saved me from myself and for that I am most grateful. I think what got the ball rolling many times before my powerful dream was the fact that I admitted that I was helpless over my addiction. Three years before this event I had made a decision to join a 12 step fellowship recovery group and learned the importance of believing in a power greater than myself. I was ready to follow the prompt of this power 29 years ago.
Remember the canary in the coal mine? The canary, carried by miners into the mine was the first one to smell potential disaster, alerting miners to get out of that mine. Today, with so much emphasis on medical treatments, David Karp, a sociologist, in “Speaking of Sadness” comments in his chapter Sociology, Spirituality and Suffering that “once individuals realize that medical treatment is unlikely to fix their problems, their thinking moves away from the medical language of cure toward the spiritual language of transformation.” He also tells us that “…(T)he Iroquois Indians, for example, believed that when any single person suffered, it reflected the suffering of nature, of the whole world, in fact.” The reality is that all life is interconnected with other living organisms. We see this illustrated best when a culture becomes narcissistic and centered primarily on the individual. Karp maintains that “the social disconnection generated by an ethic of individualism is an important element in the proliferation of affective disorders in America.”
While I believe that medications can alleviate the pain of some of those who are depressed and seek clinical help, the meds in themselves cannot remove whatever caused the pain, or the initial hurt. But the depression itself will allow us to take a deeper look at how we live out our lives. And for this reason that is why I am an advocate for mutual-aid groups where persons can come together, form community/fellowships and follow a procedure for healing ourselves while assisting in the healing of other members of the community.
The first step of Depressed Anonymous states that “We admitted…” and in Steps three, eight, ten, eleven, twelve again the word “we” is used. If anyone wants to find a community and a spiritual antidote to individualism, the 12 step fellowships provide a solution focused recovery program. I am an advocate for 12 step programs based on helping each other out of isolation into a fellowship of hope and healing. No longer is it just about me, me alone, but about something bigger than just me .It is a “we” program.
We are all connected!
“Sigmund Freud was once asked what people needed to be happy? The questioner no doubt expected a long, complicated answer reflecting Freud’s years of deep reflection on the matter. His simple response, however, was “arbeiten und lieben,” –work and love. Happy people feel connected to others at work and through their intimate relationships. When those connections are threatened, diminished, or broken, people suffer. Today, millions of Americans are suffering from what my colleague Charles Derber calls “double trouble.” Those in double trouble have neither meaningful work nor sustaining intimate ties. The withering of community life in both domains fosters a rootless and social disintegration that unquestionably contributes to the growth of emotional disorders.” Speaking of Sadness. David Karp. Page 178.
I believe that in the midst of the pain of depression I just wanted to pull the plug on life. I wanted to be alone. I just wanted people to keep their distance. I was not happy. I was unhappy at a job I began to hate. I do remember how hard it was even to lift up the phone to talk to a family member, an old friend or whoever intruded into my isolation. Truly I was suffering from “double trouble.”
But as the pain deepened I began to look for solutions–where was the key to unlock my depression. I found it in a fellowship, a 12 Step Recovery group. I was able to form intimate relations, work a program which was solution focused and then gradually get back into the light, into meaningful relationships. I also recovered the energy I needed to find a career that today (30 years later) still gives me joy and sustains my hope.
IF YOU WANT SOMETHING THAT YOU NEVER HAD BEFORE, YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING THAT YOU NEVER DID BEFORE.
Well, that pretty much says it all. We all have our comfort zones–that is for sure. About two weeks ago, a friend of mine wanted to know if I would join him in getting out the vote here in the USA. I told him I would. All it entailed was going to certain neighborhoods and knocking on people’s doors and asking them if they were going to vote in the Midterm elections. If they said yes, then I would tell them where the polling place was located. I spent two days of this–knocking on doors and asking them to get out and vote for their candidates. I had never, in my whole life done this before–going and knocking on strangers doors and asking them to vote. (Only time before was when I was a kid and went “trick or treating” on Halloween.) Anyway, the whole point here is that I was very uncomfortable knocking on doors and talking to total strangers. It was way out of my “comfort zone.”
When I was depressed I entered into another type of “comfort zone” namely an isolation zone–where all I wanted to do was just do nothing. Just absolutely nothing. Except sleep. My comfort zone was like I was living in a glass house–I could see everything around me but I had no interest in or connection to what happened outside my walls. I had no desire to get involved with former activities that provided me with a sense of purpose or happiness. My mantra was “I’ll do it when I feel better.” Finally I made up my mind, crawled out of my comfort zone and walked through the doors of my first 12 Step meeting. This was a very un-comfortable move for me as I forced myself to go and get help for what could possibly kill me.
Reader, just know that if you want help for yourself or a loved one–knock on our door–come on in– know that if you are depressed, or a friend is depressed, we have the tools to help you find your way out of your prison of depression. You’ll be taking a step into a new way of living.
“Why wouldn’t our relationships with other people improve? After we have begun to put into place our daily program for recovery, namely through prayer and meditation we now are expectant and hopeful. We reflect upon each step, and we complete a piece of the structure that in time will be the new one.
I think that one of the more critical areas to mend our lives is the thinking part of ourselves. Depression appears to start with the way our minds react and perceive events outside of ourselves. So, from the start we need to promote to those persons depressed to get involved in as much physical activity as possible, namely, walk, express to others, go to DA meetings, talk on the phone with supportive people –in other words, get connected as much as possible. The point where we hope to enter into the life of the depressed is at the point of hope –be it at different stages of recovery.
…I believe that our involvement with other people like ourselves in the group gradually broadens our perspective in the area of hope. We learn to utilize new found tools that help us live with hope as well as enable us to learn that we have to be active in our own recovery.”
THE PROMISES. DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS PUBLICATIONS LOUISVILLE, KY. Pages 19-20.
Isn’t this the way it is? It usually takes an awareness of something bigger than just me that propels us into life armed with a sense of purpose. This something bigger could be getting involved in a political campaign, working in a food kitchen serving the poor, helping migrants find a job, learn a language of their newly adopted homeland.
The experience of depression gradually whittled down my world and any interests that I considered worth my time. Then as I continued to spiral down into the dark abyss of inactivity and aloneness, I felt a great need to find something that would break my fall and so it all began–the search, the seeking the power that would help me get up and get going again. For me, (this is about me right now), I made a decision to find some power that was greater than the power of my need to sad myself. I found the power that was greater than myself–it was a group of persons journeying with a hope and a faith that manifested serenity and purpose in their words and deeds. My world began to get large again, it started to swell with possibility and hopefulness. It was sanity personified. It was a belief, coupled with a witness of those others who had achieved a continued saneness in their dealings with their world and most importantly within their selves. Now I am a witness to the truth of that power which I discovered or that which discovered me. You, the reader are now part of my world and I, for a bit of time, am part of your world. I am grateful.